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Marine Places

Hawaiian Archipelago

The Hawaiian Archipelago consists of the exposed peaks of a huge undersea mountain range. These mountains have formed over tens of millions of years as the Pacific Plate moves northwest over a hotspot in Earth’s mantle. Coral reefs fringe some coastal areas of the younger, substantial islands at the southeastern end of the chain, such as Oahu and Molokai. To the northwest, located on the submerged summits of older, sunken islands, are several near-atolls (such as the French Frigate Shoals) and atolls (such as Midway Atoll). These reefs are highly isolated from all other coral reefs in the world, and although their overall biological diversity is relatively low, many new species have evolved on them. About a quarter of the animals and plants found in the Hawaiian Islands and a few nearby reefs are found nowhere else.

  • Pacific Ocean Central
  • Type Fringing reefs, atolls, submerged reefs
  • Area 450 square miles (1,180 square km)
  • Condition Generally good; some degradation
  • Location North-central Pacific
Hawaiian Archipelago habitat mapzoom image